More than a puff of smoke... Tees Valley
PUBLISHED: 10:25 17 March 2011 | UPDATED: 22:01 21 February 2013
Beyond its chemical works and refinery towers, Tees Valley may surprise you! Karen Bowerman discovered moorland, museums and Europe's oldest floating warship – plus links with Nelson and Captain Cook...
More than a puff of smoke
Beyond its chemical works and refinery towers, Tees Valley may surprise you! Karen Bowerman discovered moorland, museums and Europes oldest floating warship plus links with Nelson and Captain Cook.
Admittedly its not the most obvious place for a short break. With the historic city of Durham to the North, York to the South, and the Pennines to the West, why would anyone choose to stay in Tees Valley home to one of the most concentrated areas of industry in the country?
But look beyond its steel plants, chemical works and refinery towers, and this area of North East England, incorporating Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough may surprise you. For within a thirty-minute drive of the main towns you can hike across moorland, search for fossils at the foot of sheer cliffs or enjoy tea and scones in a secluded fishing villages.
If youre travelling from Scotland or the South of England Tees Valley isnt as far as you may think either. It takes just three hours by train from London and Edinburgh while Durham airport is just twenty minutes away by car.
So, whats there to see?
The region's links with steel
Despite the mothballing of the steel giant Corus (in February 2010) the region will always be linked with steel, so why not start your stay with a visit to Clevelands first ironstone mine?
The tiny coastal village of Skinningrove is home to Loftus Mine (now the Cleveland Ironstone Mining museum) where you can learn what life was like for miners in the 1850s. I explored the Victorian ventilation shafts, the North Drift (one of the main haulage tunnels) and headed underground to the rock face.
Mining transformed Teesside - both below and above ground. The people of the picturesque village of Newton under Roseberry witnessed this first hand. Just before World War 1, their local landmark - a hill called Roseberry Topping - partially collapsed because of iron works.
Yorkshire's Mini Matterhorn
The hills once entirely conical summit is now half a cone with a jagged precipice, earning it the name the Yorkshire Matterhorn. At just over a thousand feet high (320m) its a good 13 thousand feet lower than its Swiss namesake, but with sheer rock face one side and steep slopes to the summit the last stretch could well leave you breathless.
I took a circuitous route from the National Trust car park at the bottom (parking 2, toilets available) to take in some of the Yorkshire moors with their stonewalls, pine forests and rough grassland. A few hours later I tackled The Topping. The view was magnificent a real panorama. On my way down I cut through Newton Woods, pausing to admire mushrooms.
The Topping was a favourite haunt of the explorer James Cook who went to school in Great Ayton nearby. The village now houses the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum.
The birthplace of Captain Cook
Another Captain cook attraction is his Birthplace Museum (free) in the vast Stewart Park in Marton, Middlesbrough. Here an elaborate Pets Corner (also free) with rare breed cattle, llamas and exotic birds (as well as the usual rabbits and guinea pigs) is also worth a quick visit.
Towards the centre of the park a granite urn marks the site of Cooks birthplace: the cottage where he was born was transported, brick by brick and rebuilt in Melbourne, Australia in 1934.
Interactive & child friendly
The museum itself is well laid out, interactive (with costumes and games for kids) and entertaining.
Enter a wooden floored room, reminiscent of a ships deck, and amid sounds of creaking timbers and screeching gulls test your seamanship skills against those of Cook. The aim: to set off in 1766, sail the Pacific and record the transit of Venus across the sun, due to take place on 13 April 1769.
I arrived 5 months late with my crew on the verge of mutiny. The computer informed me I would have been a very average captain!
Europe's oldest floating warship
You can get another taste of life at sea at the Maritime Experience at Hartlepool marina. Its main attraction is the massive HMS Trincomalee, Europes oldest floating warship and the last of Nelsons frigates.
Stroll and sometimes almost crawl around the three decks of this incredibly restored tall ship and experience life in Britains navy around 150 years ago.
The cook's slush fund
Look out for the grinning cook - a happy man after selling off the dripping (or slush) from the meat to make a bit of extra money from hungry sailors hence the origin of the word slush fund! The audio guide (1) is packed with lots of similar titbits.
Hartlepool's historic maritime quay
Surrounding HMS Trincomalee is a replica 18th century quay with shops and houses. Displays show naval tailors, naval architects and gunsmiths at work.
The site also includes Hartlepool Museum and a restored 1930s paddle steamer, making for a full day out.
With so much on offer you soon forget youre in the industrial North East...
Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, Deepdale, Skiningrove, Saltburn, TS13 4AP
www.ironstonemuseum.co.uk. Guided tour. Open: Apr-Oct, Mon-Sat. Adults 5. Tel: 01287 642877.
Roseberry topping, Newton-under-Roseberry, Great Ayton, Tees Valley, TS9 6QR.
Captain Cook Birthplace Museum, Stewart Park, Marton, Middlesbrough, TS7 8AT www.captcook-ne.co.uk. Closed Mondays and first week in January. Admission Free. Tel: 01642 311211
Hartlepool Maritime Experience, Jackson Dock, Maritime Avenue, Hartlepool, TS24 0XZ. www.hartlepoolsmaritimeexperience.com Open daily March Oct 10am-5pm: Nov Feb 1030am-4pm: Adults 7.95; children 5.96, Tel: 01429 860077